PAST – Palaeontological Scientific Trust
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Scatterlings of Africa

PAST’s newest initiative, Scatterlings of Africa, is a pan-African investment campaign. Scatterlings is an ambitious effort to expand the organisation’s mission across Africa while retaining its traditional core focus on South Africa.

We are all Scatterlings of Africa. The continent is the birthplace of humankind and this status as humankind’s ancestral home instills dignity and pride among its peoples. Findings in the origin sciences resonate at many levels in the contemporary global context. They foster a positive perception of the continent by shattering traditionally conceived boundaries based on racial, cultural and other superficial differences. Humankind’s shared African identity has been moulded by a long journey of common ancestry and this journey far surpasses in duration and effect the recent divergent paths along which these superficial differences arose.

Our African Origins is the one thread which links every single person alive on the planet today! Much of PAST’s prior work has been focused on the South African origin sciences. However, origins is an African story and Scatterlings of Africa is expanding PAST’s mission across the continent.

Origins and You

Themes on the Philosophical and Practical Relevance of Humankind’s Past to Africa’s Future

PAST’s promotion of education, research and public outreach in the Origin Sciences is often seen as an academic pursuit wanting for social relevance. Yet an understanding of our past, guided by evolutionary thinking and its genetic underpinnings, has broad relevance to modern issues and future prospects for humankind in general, and Africans in particular. Four themes, ranging from the philosophical to the practical, characterize PAST’s use of ancient heritage in its education and outreach programmes to help guide Africa into the future:

African Dignity
  • Africa as humankind’s ancestral homeland (paleontological and genetic evidence).
  • Africa’s unique fossil treasures.
Unity of Humankind
  • Superficiality of racial markers (they are minor, recently evolved, and rapidly reintegrating).
  • Social justice based on the deeply woven threads of our common humanity.
Humankind’s Place in Nature
  • Humans are a part of nature, not apart from nature.
  • Anthropogenic vs. prehistoric climate change and extinction.
  • Humans as custodians of nature: embracing conservation biology.
Flourishing in the Genomic Age
  • Africa as the ‘last frontier’ in the genomic revolution.
  • Empowerment through education in origin sciences, focusing on applied evolution.
  • Genetic engineering (e.g., genetically modified foods; personalized genomics as disease and aging intervention; environmental genetics), drug resistant microbes (e.g., HIV), disease tracking (and eradication)
  • Emerging career opportunities in genetic/evolutionary approaches to medicine, bioinformatics, agriculture, conservation biology, bioethics, etc.

PAST’s Human Heritage Hubs

Utilising PAST’s successful model of integrating education, research and outreach programmes, PAST is developing this integrated model at several important origin sciences excavation sites, as well as origin sciences-focused museums and other institutions. An example of the success of this approach is illustrated by the world-famous site of Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania where PAST is supporting the Walking Tall project for schools in the area as well as the Maasai community; student training and the support of field technicians, as well as supporting the world-class multi-disciplinary research taking place at this site. PAST also supports public outreach at Olduvai Gorge through lectures centred on research produced by this remarkable location. Other examples of PAST’s Human Heritage Hub development include development at the National Museum of Bloemfontein in the Free State province of South Africa and the Sterkfontein Caves and the greater Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site west of Johannesburg.

Acheulian stone tools TK Acheulian 002OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFossil bones at Elandsfontein site276

PAST reg. no. 508/95 Palaeosciences Centre University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg South Africa P O Box 203 Parklands 2121 Johannesburg South Africa

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